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IMG_2940I am really excited to announce that I will now be a contributing writer for the blog at ModernHomesteaders.net.  I have been a fan of theirs for awhile and being asked to contribute was very flattering and exciting.  I am scheduled to write for them once a week.

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I will be talking about my road to prepping and the accomplishments I have made.  I hope to show how anyone, even if you are on a tight budget, how to start and build up emergency supplies and equipment.  But as importantly, I will be teaching alternative cooking methods, food preservation and other great DIY projects to help save you money.  I will share product reviews and a host of other things that should help you develop your own plan or hone in on the plan you have to move you ahead.

I’ve seen many things happen in the way of disasters.  Things like hurricanes, tornadoes, super storms, terror attacks and an economic system teetering in the brink of decline.  I see families displaced, left without a home to live in or even clothes on their backs.  I see these people at the mercy of charities and government agencies for their very survival.  I don’t want my family to be like those families we all see on television after such a big event. I hope you will follow me as I contribute to the great work Shane is doing at Modern Homesteaders.  If you don’t already subscribe to Modern Homesteaders, please click this link and visit them on Facebook by clicking here.

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Gert

For Christmas 2012 I got 3 hens and a small chicken coop.  I started my backyard flock!  Before getting them, I studied all I could about the task that lay ahead.  There are wonderful blogs and pages on Facebook dedicated to backyard chickens.  I read message boards and learned what chickens need, what they eat, and what diseases or conditions to watch for.  I learned about keeping a first aid kit for them for the more minor of injuries or illnesses.

I went to a local breeder and chose three different varieties, each of which were 7 months old.

I picked out a beautiful Black Sex Link (left) who I named Gert(rude) because she reminded me of the old fat farm lady.  Gert was the first of my girls to start laying and lays beautiful, very light, large brown eggs.  She lays every other day.

Ms Priss

My Golden Compass is named Ms. Priss (right)because of her strut and constant preening.  Of the three, Prissy is the only one so far who lays an egg every day.

Lucy 3/7/13

This photo (left) is my Rhode Island Red, Lucy.  You can see she is a beautiful specimen.  She’s so healthy, rich in color, plump and has been laying for about 8 weeks.  She lays eggs much like Gert’s and she also lays on alternative days.

One morning this week, I went out to check my girls and gather the  2 eggs they leave for me every day.  Lucy was still on the nest which she tends to hang out once she lays.  Thinking nothing of it, I went about doing other chores.  I watched and waited for her to be done for more than 3 hours until she finally emerged from the coop.  Not thinking much of it as we are still having warm days mixed with cold, sunshine mixed with cloudy, rain, I went to gather the egg(s).  To my horror, I found this anomaly.

Lucy's Egg1

Needless to say, being a chicken mom for all of 3 months, I was frantic!  What happened?  Is Lucy going to die?  Is it contagious and can it kill all my girls?  I immediately came in and showed my husband who wanted nothing more than to retreat and not even look.  I settled down and with great apprehension, I began dissecting the “thing.”

First lateral cut

This was the first, lateral cut.  It exposed a multi-layered, swirly mass.  No odor nor blood.  There was actually no liquid although it was moist.  Not being a veterinarian or even an experienced chicken keeper, I was trying to figure out what this might tell me.  Was this a tumor, part of her reproductive organs, or even cancer?

Layers

You can see how  wet, layered, and flaky it is.  But it’s very clean.

Complete dissection

And here you can see what looks like cystic-growths.  But nothing dark.  It all looked quite benign to this novice.

After having documented as best I could, I went on the hunt to find out what it is.  I could not find this example on any blogs so I headed over to BackYard Chicken’s message board and posted some photos and quickly got a reply which led me right to exactly what this is.  It is called Lash Egg.  Never heard of it?  Not many people have seen it.  From what I read, it’s not very common.  So uncommon that I couldn’t get a clear understanding of what it actually is.  Some message boards has posts from people like me asking for information and advise.  Things I read all indicated that it’s not fatal.  Some hens had been lethargic, some had not.  Lucy had shown no signs of discomfort or distress.

I read one comment where the writer had “heard” that if you find two of these from the same hen, they will no longer lay eggs.  But I could not find any information to support that.  She wasn’t sick before laying this Lash Egg and she has been her normal self since.  She laid another egg two days later, right on schedule which was as perfect as all those before.

While this won’t answer any questions for others seeking information about Lash Egg, it will allow others to see what it is.  I will continue to hope some of the emails or messages I’ve put out about this will be answered.  If that happens, I will add anything new I learn.

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Infused OilOne thing I strive to do in planning my home store, I try to make sure I either have or can make all the things my family and I enjoy in these “good” times.  I don’t want to be pulling out buckets of legumes and beans without having the flavors I’m accustom to going into them.  Simple things really do make life more comfortable.  And this technique to infusing oil is an example of planning to thrive while others struggle to survive.  Pay attention to the little things.  Those sometimes unnoticeable extra’s that you might take for granted.  This recipe was given to me to share by reader Tess Pavlin.  She has tried and tweaked this until she was sure it was wonderful and felt comfortable in making it public.  Win for us, right?

Infused oils will spice up your cooking and lend to wonderful healing and relaxing massages.

When you are ready to start making essential oil from your herbs, follow these four steps carefully:

  1. Put a handful of your herbs or flower heads into a clean glass jar. Choose either a single herb such Basil Infused Oilas basil or a mixture such as oregano, rosemary and thyme. Crush them to release the flavor into the carrier oil. Make absolutely sure your herbs are completely dry.  Water will likely make your oil go rancid.
  2. Pour 12 oz. of oil into the jar until the leaves or flowers are completely covered. Put a well-fitting top on the jar and let it stand in a warm (but not sunny) place shaking daily for two weeks.
  3. Straining Infused OilAfter the two weeks, strain off the herbs (use a cotton muslin cloth or an old open weave linen handkerchief) and then repeat the process of infusion with a fresh handful of your herbs (but using the same oil). Do this, as many times as necessary until you have a jar of strongly flavored aromatic oil.
  4. Store your aromatic oil in a small to medium-size sterilized bottle and label it. Clean the rim and tightly seal the cap to reduce the chances of air getting into the bottle. Make sure that you keep your stored oils out of sunlight.

Always remember:

Use a good-quality, mild-flavored oil such as sunflower oil or grapeseed oil. You don’t want the taste of the oil to compete with the flavor and smell of your herbs. For this reason you should avoid using extra virgin olive oil.Cover your herbs completely with oil during the infusing process. Any bits sticking out will oxidize and spoil the flavor of the oil.

Before storing the oil make sure you have removed all the plant material. (If you don’t the oil will become cloudy and sour)

WHAT OTHERs ARE DOING WITH THEIRs

Another way to speed up the process of infusing your oils is by using a small crock pot on its lowest setting.

  1. Gently bruise the herbs or flowers by crushing the in the palm of your hands before adding them to the pot. You can also press them with a wooden spoon or in a mortar and pestle but it is not necessary.
  2. Add 16 oz. of oil to the crock pot and turn heat on low. Add the herbs, leaves, or petals. Let simmer covered for 12 hours. Stir lightly and turn off overnight. Day 2 turn back on and simmer again for 12 hours. Day 3 repeat. Strain oils through cheesecloth to remove solids and bottle the oils. They will keep for a minimum of 3 years if tightly sealed.

Extra Tip:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of Vitamin E (per pint) to your beauty and medicinal oils to preserve them. You could also try using 15 drops of grapefruit seed extract.

Alternative methods.

1. OVEN INFUSED HOMEMADE OILS – Place your herbs in an oven safe dish and cover with the natural oil of your choice. Cover the dish and place in the oven at 200 degrees or the lowest possible setting your oven has. Cook for three hours. While it’s still warm, strain through cheese cloth and squeeze the oil from the herbs. Pour the oil into a sterile bottle or jar.

2. STOVE TOP INFUSED OILS – Using a double boiler, GENTLY simmer oil and herbs for 2 hours. Strain through cheese cloth. For a stronger infusion repeat using the same oil and fresh herbs.

Infused oild in crockpot3. CROCK POT INFUSED HOMEMADE OILS – This method can only be used if your crock pot has a “warm” or very low setting! This works great for infusing several oils at once. Fill your sterile pint jars with your herbs and oils. Place the jars in the crock pot and cook on low for eight hours. You can do up to 5 different oils at once with this method depending on the size of your crock pot!

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New Sweepstake!


FlexrakeIn appreciation of the growth of PrepperPenny’s Facebook page having reached 2,500 readers, I am hosting a fun giveaway to help you in the garden in spring!

This Flexrake Trug Gift set will be given away to one lucky winner.

Description

The Lucky Winner will receive this Flexrace Classic Trug Gift Set. Oak hand turned handles. Nostalgic Craftsmanship Trug basket for carrying cut flowers, herbs or produce! Features a garden trug, sniper shear, hand trowel and hand fork and beautifully packaged. Winner will be chosen at random via computer.

Timing

4 days , Feb 28, 2013 – Mar 04, 2013

Follow this link to get your entry in  

You must:

1)  Subscribe to my blog here

2) “Like” my FB Page by clicking (HERE)

3) Post a comment on FB Post

4) Share original post from FB Page

Winner is chosen at random and will be announced  on my Facebook Page and an email will be sent to you.  Any name chosen by the computer will be disqualified if the 4 conditions listed above are not completed.

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Finished Red BeansI don’t have any fresh produce harvest to satisfy my urge to do some canning, so I decided to can some red beans I had in my home store to create another use for them in my home store.  Canning from bulk, dry beans saves you a good amount of money and is healthier and tastes better.  Having these beans ready for my red beans and rice or chili makes them very convenient, too. I do not add any spices to my beans, not even salt.  I prefer to spice them when I decide on which dish I am preparing.  However, if you like, you can add spices to yours.

I started out by washing and carefully inspecting them, removing any bad beans or pebbles.  Once this step was done, I put them in to soak in a large container overnight.  Step 1 - Adding Beans

I then dumped that water, washed them again and ladled them into hot, sanitized quart canning jars.

Remove Air Bubbles

Here you will add boiling water and using a plastic or wood utensil, remove any trapped air bubbles from your beans.  Check your headspace and adjust the water level to have a 1″ (2.5 cm)headspace.

Wiping Rims

Never, ever forget to wipe the rims and check for chips or cracks.  Forgetting this step could cause your batch to fail.

Lids and Bands

After cleaning the rims of each jar, center the lid on jar.  Screw band down until it is finger-tip tight.  Here, I am using white Tattler Lids and standard bands.

Beans in Canner

Place jars in your pressure canner.  Adjust water level, lock lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Vent steam for 10 minutes, then close vent.  Continue heating  to achieve 10 pounds (69 kPa) pressure and maintain this pressure to process for  75 minutes for pint jars, 90 minutes for quart jars.

Diagram of Canner

Jars in canner

Once the time is up, turn off the heat source and allow canner to cool down and relieve the pressure.  Once the pressure is diminished, remove the lid and allow them to sit for approximately 10 more minutes.

Removing Jars with Lifter

Using a rubber jar lifter (please don’t try using anything else), carefully remove your jars and place them on a towel and leave them undisturbed for 24 hours.

Finished Red Beans

After 24 hours, remove the bands and check all the seals. If any did not seal correctly, put them in the refrigerator and use them within 2 weeks.  Wash your jars, label and date them.

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Sourdough in CrockOne of my favorite books for pioneer recipes is Cookin With Home Storage by Peggy Layton.  I keep this book on my desk, compared to most which are on a bookshelf.  I’m starting some sourdough and thought I would share what I learned in Peggy’s book.

Sourdough Starter – It wasn’t until the Danish people immigrated to Utah that years was brought to raise the breads.  Before then, they made a started which they called “Sourdough.”  It was made by combining flour, salt and enough warm water to make a spongy dough.  This was put in a crock with a loose lid and kept warm for several days, during which time it bubbled and formed it own yeast.  These breads weren’t as light as yeast breads but the wonderful flavor made up for it.  Sourdough was a favorite of the sheepherders in Sanpete County and still is.  It was used for breads, biscuits , and pancakes.

Dehydrating Your Sourdough Start

You can dry your start and store it for later use.  Spread a very thin layer on a piece of plastic wrap.  Dry it in a dehydrator or allow it to air dry.  When one side is dry, turn it over to allow it to dry on that side.  When it is completely dry, break it into pieces and grind it into a powder.  Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.  To re-start it, just add water or milk until you get it back to the original consistency.  When using a reactivated starter, allow it to set at room temperature for 8 hours.

Sourdough Starter
Author: PrepperPenny via Peggy Layton
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Almost any recipe can be changed to use sourdough. To make it work you have to control the leavening and keep the thickness or moisture the same. If the recipe calls for baking powder, leave a teaspoon out. If no but your results are too heavy, put a little baking powder in it. You may need to experiment a little.
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 C Warm Water
  • 2 1/2 C. Flour
  • 1 tsp Active, dry yeast
Instructions
  1. Stir together and allow it to set for 3-5 days in a warm place to ferment.
Notes
Save 1 cup from every batch to add more flour and milk to keep your starter going. Use in pancakes, biscuits and breads!

 

 

 

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Spicy Mustard Ranch Mix

Another spice mix that will be a wonderful addition to your home store.  Use as a salad dressing, veggie dip, chip dip and even as a sauce for a yummy baked chicken dish.

Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix
Recipe Type: Condiment
Author: iVillage.com
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk powder
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 1 Tbs dried chives
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp dried whole basil leaves
  • 2 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
Instructions
  1. To make ranch dressing or dip, mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk) with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mix, depending on how strong you like it. This seasoning mix is great as a dry rub for fish or chicken, and you can also sprinkle it on hot buttered popcorn or oven fries.
Notes
Combine and store in an airtight container

 

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